Going Beyond The Obvious!

How to express possibility, probability and certainty during your long turn in the Speaking Paper of the Cambridge Exams?

Join me and you will find out!


Speaking Paper, Part 3
look(s) like
must be
may/might be
an adjective (feeling word)
a noun
a verb”ING”
a place
a clause
Write down your examples below:
Going Beyond The Obvious! 1
Picture Story TIPS and CHECKLIST:
  • Listen attentively to the examiner. He/She tells you the name of the story, starts the story and talks about picture 1.
  • Look at the other four pictures. Pay attention to details.
  • Describe each picture in turn and say a few words about each picture.
  • Use “and”, “but”, “because” to join your ideas together.
  • Talk about the weather, the place, the people (actions, clothes, feeling), the furniture and/or things (colour, shape, position).
  • Finish the story with something good.

Considering the checklist above, let’s do the task together and see how we have used these structures to express possibilities.


“These pictures tell a story. It’s called “The lost picture”. Mary and Fred are back from school. They’re going to spend the afternoon inside. Now you tell the story.”


“Mary and Fred must be in the living room. They are sitting on the floor and there are a lot of pictures on the carpet. It looks like Mary and Fred are doing their homework. It might be a project about animals.  They look very busy. It’s snack time. Their mother has got some drinks for them. It might be juice or milk, I don’t know. Fred is showing his mother a picture of an elephant and puts it on the green armchair. They are all having a good time. Next, the mother sits on the armchair because she may be tired. Mary is describing her favourite animal. It’s the giraffe. Later, Mary and Fred’s mother has a rest. She must be sleeping a little. Fred can’t find the picture of the elephant.  “Where is it?”, he asks his sister. Fred looks sad and nervous. Suddenly, their mother wakes up and stands up because she takes the drinks to the kitchen. “Look, the picture is there!”, says Mary. The children start to laugh because the picture is on the mother’s back. Fred looks happy because he has found the lost picture.”


Speaking Paper, Part 2

Moving on to B1 Preliminary, it is in Part 2 of the Speaking paper that the candidate must show control of modals verbs and other structures to talk about possibilities. Look at the chart below. Try and use these structures to speculate about the picture.

I guess …
I think …
look(s) (a bit) like
look(s) more like
seem(s) to be
may/might be

could be


an adjective
a noun
a verb”ING”
a sentence

Write down your examples below:
Going Beyond The Obvious! 2
  • Describe people, places, the weather and situations.
  • Name personal characteristics, activities and objects.
  • Paraphrase words and ideas if necessary.
  • Make guesses.
  • Explain and give reasons.

Let’s use the above expressions in an exam-like context.


“In this part of the test, I’m going to give each of you a photograph, and I’d like you to talk about it on your own.

It’s your turn first. Here is your photograph. It shows people on a bus. Please tell us what you can see in the photograph.


“The picture shows some children who could be going to school by bus. There seem to be some teenagers and a teacher, too, because they look older. They must be from the same school, since all the pupils are wearing the same uniform. It is a white shirt, a striped tie and black trousers or a skirt. I think the picture has been taken in summer or spring because the weather looks sunny and warm. In the foreground, on the left, I see a child who is wearing glasses looking at an older girl. This teenager probably likes princesses or fashion, because her school backpack has got a picture of some cartoon or film characters on it. They must be having a good time because they look smiling and happy. On the right, there are two boys who seem to be looking through the window. The third, who is sitting by the window, may be looking at the driver or at the person who took the photograph. Everyone is sitting, except for two people, the woman, who could be their teacher, as I said before,  and a girl standing on the left, by the window. In the background, there are some boys looking forwards. I guess they are probably going to school, or they may be going home, I don’t know. I can also see more cars on the street. Maybe, the bus stopped at a traffic light or in a traffic jam, I am not sure.”


Speaking Paper, Part 2

The higher the level is, the more complex the language structures are. Worries away! Check out the various ways to speculate about the pictures.

looks as if
seems as if
appears as if
a sentence
an adjective
“TO” infinitive
seem(s) like
a noun
Subjectlook(s) as ifa sentence
To express certainty and possibility
about the present or future:

must (be)
can’t/couldn’t (be)
could (be)
might/may (not) (be)
a verb”ING”
an adjective
bare infinitive
To express certainty and possibility
about the past:

must have
can’t/couldn’t have
may (not) have
might (not) have
could have
a past participle form
Going Beyond The Obvious! 3

You will do a brilliant job if you know what exactly is expected from you.

  • Talk about the general ideas the pictures show. Don’t describe them in detail.
  • Remember: the answer to the question is paramount. Spend more time answering the question.
  • Support your answer with reasons.
  • Compare the two photos in relation to the question.
  • Say what is similar about the photographs as well as what is different.
  • Speculate whenever you are not sure what is happening in a photo.
  • Use the best strategy that works for you. A. Compare both pictures at the same time. B. Talk about one photo and then the other.
  • Follow a framework or a pattern, if possible, to help you organize your one-minute-long turn.
  • Passives
  • Relative clauses
  • Conditionals
  • Modal verbs
  • Linking words for contrast

It is high time we used them in an exam-like task!


“In this part of the test, I’m going to give each of you two photographs. I’d like you to talk about your photographs on your own for about a minute, and also to answer a question about your partner’s photographs.

It’s your turn first. Here are your photographs. They show different kinds of holidays. I’d like you to compare the photographs and say what you think the young people are enjoying about these different type of holiday. All right?” 


“OK, both pictures could have been taken in a cold season, like autumn or winter, and both photographs show people having a great time. The main similarity must be the fact that the people are on holiday. While in the first picture, it appears as if they are a family sitting around what seems like a fire, in the forest, on the riverbank, in the second, there is a teenage girl who can’t be anywhere else but in London. Look, there is the Tower Bridge in the background! The obvious difference is the kind of holiday these people have decided to take. In the picture above, the family could have gone camping. On the other hand, the young person below must have gone sightseeing, or maybe on a shopping trip. Regarding the question, in the first photo, the family members are all together, granny, parents and children, which must undoubtedly be the most enjoyable and unforgettable experience, wrapped in warm clothes and blankets, listening to music, cooking what looks marshmallows, and savouring a cup of tea. In contrast, the teenager could be taking advantage of her free time or school holidays, why not a gap year, to visit places like the River Thames and the Tower of London. This is really amazing. If I were to choose my favourite kind of holiday, I would find it very hard, since both types of holiday appeal to me.

The text above has got different text colours. It is about the way I suggest you organize your long turn, no matter the pictures in front of you:

  1. Introduction
  2. Main similarity
  3. Main difference
  4. Answer


Speaking Paper, Part 2

Are you about to reach the top! Let’s see what useful expressions can be used so that your long turn can stand out from the rest of the candidates. 

This time, it is your turn to try and use the grammar structures from the following table while comparing two of the photographs below and answering the two questions above the pictures. Do your very best, and your answer will blow the speaking examiners away!

There’s every/little/no chance
of something (happening).
that something will happen.
There’s a (very)distinct
of something (happening).
that something will happen.
Subject have/has/stand(s)every
a fair
a good
an outside
a slim
chanceof doing something.
It is highlylikely
that something will happen.
We cannotrule out
the possibility that … /of … .
Subject is/arebound
highly likely
“TO” infinitive

Going Beyond The Obvious! 4
  • Talk about the similarities and differences between the two chosen pictures.
  • Speculate about the pictures as indicated in the questions. Use sophisticated grammar structures (check list above).
  • Do not describe what is happening.
  • Use a wide range of vocabulary. Go beyond the everyday words and expressions.

Read the interlocutor’s lines below and roll up your sleeves 🙂


“In this part of the test, I’m going to give each of you three pictures. I’d like you to talk about two of them on your own for about a minute, and also to answer a question briefly about your partner’s pictures.

It’s your turn first. Here are your pictures. They show different ways of shopping for clothes. I’d like you to compare two of the pictures, and say what kind of customers might choose to shop for clothes in each way, and what might be the disadvantages of shopping for clothes in these different ways. All right?”

You can now practise, and even record yourself. Send the recording to me. I will give you my feedback as soon as possible. Remember to make use of the above expressions to speculate about what the pictures. Remember not to overuse them, otherwise it will not sound natural.

I am sure that practising will do the trick!

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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